Review of Legendborn by Tracy Deonn

After her mother dies in an accident, sixteen-year-old Bree Matthews wants nothing to do with her family memories or childhood home. A residential program for bright high schoolers at UNC–Chapel Hill seems like the perfect escape—until Bree witnesses a magical attack her very first night on campus.
A flying demon feeding on human energies.
A secret society of so called “Legendborn” students that hunt the creatures down.
And a mysterious teenage mage who calls himself a “Merlin” and who attempts—and fails—to wipe Bree’s memory of everything she saw.
The mage’s failure unlocks Bree’s own unique magic and a buried memory with a hidden connection: the night her mother died, another Merlin was at the hospital. Now that Bree knows there’s more to her mother’s death than what’s on the police report, she’ll do whatever it takes to find out the truth, even if that means infiltrating the Legendborn as one of their initiates.
She recruits Nick, a self-exiled Legendborn with his own grudge against the group, and their reluctant partnership pulls them deeper into the society’s secrets—and closer to each other. But when the Legendborn reveal themselves as the descendants of King Arthur’s knights and explain that a magical war is coming, Bree has to decide how far she’ll go for the truth and whether she should use her magic to take the society down—or join the fight.


Legendborn is 100% the reason why I choose to never DNF a book. I’m not going to lie, this was so hard to get into, I found the opening chapters trite and full of high school/College cliche’s, honestly I struggled to bring myself to pick it back up. However the payoff for pushing through this opening section was nothing short of huge and I’m glad I carried on. The world building does start off a little clumsy, there is just so much information to absorb with regard to magic, the concept of legendborn and onceborn, and then every branch and facet of the Order, vassells, pages, scions…. you get the picture. However, it does click into place and I became utterly swept up in it all. The mythology is very well thought out and researched, I adored the addition of the Welsh, leading back to the original land of King Arthur. So often the other members of the round table get forgotten in retellings, but each line is considered and every Page must chose a path, I found this to be a really refreshing and compelling take on the myth. I loved the Buffy vibe with many of the creatures and the way they are fought too. Once past the opening, the school setting pretty much falls away and we are in a wonderful world of old magic, imposing buildings and impressive grounds, much of the action takes place at night, adding to the atmospheric feel.


Bree is such an amazingly complex character, whilst she could easily have been whiny and full of self pity, her ability to recognise the changes in herself from before and after her devastating loss is astute, she rarely holds back when it comes to challenging the bigoted colonial and very white Legendborn Order, yet in a parallel to what we see in the real world, she finds herself often coming to the attention of the police and faculty heads, when her white counterparts get to walk away.  Her time with Patricia is some of the most compelling of the book, especially with her help in identifying and summarising the two magic systems in play. The way the second is discovered is pretty heartbreaking but it fits in significantly with the way that race is put forward. As Bree finds herself able to discover more about her own history and magic, the history of a school and secret society built on slavery is well woven into the pages and mirrors both the magics and the way they are formed and wielded. Selwyn sadly is a walking YA cliche, however his character as a Merlin is brilliantly brought into the 21st century. Nick as a love interest really fell flat.  William is really the only other character with depth and I think that is because he was written with great humour and I wish that Alice had more time to shine as her banter with Bree was brilliant.


I did struggle with the short time period in which everything occurs, whilst the writing reflects a feeling of a large passing of time, there are occasions when I was reminded that only a night or a few days had passed, which pulled me away from the story a bit and pulled the believability of some relationships to the limit. But ultimately this is a great story that really pulled me in with its creativity and amazing protagonist, the final battle is brilliantly written and left me with my heart pounding and just in awe at how the pieces slotted together. Now that the groundwork has been laid, I just know that the next in the series will hit the ground running and I am totally here for it!



Review of Flight of the Spark by Evelyn Puerto

Duty. Desire. Destiny.
How far would you go to be safe… to be free…to be loved?

Iskra doesn’t question the rules. The rules are there to keep her safe from those who are deemed unsafe or unfair. Anyone who breaks the rules is taken, never to be heard from again. But that’s the price everyone gladly pays for peace and safety. And no one wants to live like the Riskers–barbarians who reject order and justice, and could kill or be killed at any moment.
When a friend is taken because of Iskra, the guilt forces her to do the unthinkable: seek out the Riskers. Iskra’s quest to save her friend quickly entangles her fate with a cryptic prophecy and a young Risker named Xico, who ensnares her heart and is willing to put it all on the line to win her.
With every risk Iskra takes, the closer she gets to true freedom. But every choice carries a consequence. The choices she makes set events she never imagined into motion, and the price of her freedom could very well be her life and the life of the man she loves.


Flight of the Spark ended up being a very unexpected book for me, from the cover I thought I was in for a magic heavy, high fantasy, however, it was very much a dystopian world albeit in a medieval setting. It was an easy world to get into with great descriptive world building that painted a vivid picture of the area. I loved the opening stages, Iskra is wonderfully naive and but also horribly controlled by fear. Her inquisitive nature, however, leads to the perfect story arc for her. As I discovered more about the village and those that are tasked with keeping its inhabitants safe, the more it made sense that she was so easily pulled further and further into the arms of the Risker’s. The two area’s could not be more different and made for a nice juxtapose, between the bleak village and the hard but colourful Risker life, it gave great light and dark to the story. The school elements really allowed for the backstory to be creatively woven in across several lessons, which meant the the author cleverly avoided an infodump. I think I would have liked to have understood sooner though why the villagers and the Riskers were not allowed to mix, because I was always questioning why Iskra felt she had to always return to the village up until that point.


The magic system was simple and understated in this opening book, more of an ideology, those who are able to wield do so sparingly and with subtlety. I hope that it gets the chance to shine later in the series as I liked the way the foundation was laid for it.. The relationship for the most part is very sweet but does have a Romeo and Juliet undertone, I liked how the romance was able to develop slowly and didn’t dominate the story, which was complex at times and also pretty dark in places. There’s a side story that I would have loved to have explored further with regard to the Taken, but events overtook that section quickly and it probably would have pulled too far away from the fast pace of Iskra’s arc to return to it. There are many fast paced and a few slightly chilling moments woven through which really had me turning the pages! As a stylistic point, I liked how the inner monologue was denoted by italics so I always knew where I was with the narrative.


The book for the most part read like a teen novel for me but there is a lot of violence and whilst the intimate moments are fade to black, the underage aspect didn’t sit well with me. The point that Iskra was just 15 was drilled so heavily home to drive certain aspects of the story forward that the author was left with no choice in order to get the rest of the story where it needed to go. I also felt that the earlier part of the story was bogged down a little with a huge cast of side characters who didn’t really add anything to the story. I was also often left struggling to keep track of every new name and area, this was also compounded by the fact that days of the week, seasons, even the moon all had their own new identity too and it felt name overloaded at times.


However, it remained a captivating read throughout and one that I found myself eager to pick back up, I’m intrigued as to where the story will head next, given the devastating cliffhanger and revelation! My thanks to the Author for providing a finished copy for review.



Review of The Ghost Tree by Christina Henry

When the bodies of two girls are found torn apart in her hometown, Lauren is surprised, but she also expects that the police won’t find the killer. After all, the year before her father’s body was found with his heart missing, and since then everyone has moved on. Even her best friend, Miranda, has become more interested in boys than in spending time at the old ghost tree, the way they used to when they were kids. So when Lauren has a vision of a monster dragging the remains of the girls through the woods, she knows she can’t just do nothing. Not like the rest of her town. But as she draws closer to answers, she realises that the foundation of her seemingly normal town might be rotten at the centre. And that if nobody else stands for the missing, she will.

I absolutely loved the premise of The Ghost Tree and the blurb totally does this great creepy read justice. I’ve read much of Christina Henry’s other works and I often wondered what would happen if she gave herself the freedom to write a unique story outside of the confines of an established fairytale – given this books substantial heft in comparison to her other books, it’s clear that she loved this freedom. Set in small town in 1980’s America there’s a lot of nostalgia and also gives it the monster of the week style edge akin to many films and TV shows of the time. Lauren is an instantly likeable character, her relationship with Miranda will strike a chord with many readers no doubt, the depiction of a friendship coming unravelled through a coming of age viewpoint was really well written and I really felt for the girls.  The horror aspects were incredibly tropey but that I think must have been design to really pull into the nostalgia as they all fitted perfectly. The woods and the visions from within reminded me instantly of Pans Labyrinth, they were deliciously creepy. I enjoyed the exploration into how being in the town impacted upon it’s residents both old and new, in many ways the town was as much a character as everyone else.

Despite the slower pace which comes with the small town backdrop and the lack of technology to speed things along, this was a book that I struggled to put down, a beauty of a slow burn, and as the impact on the town as a whole is explored more deeply, the horror element starts to seep in. The inclusion of the towns own fairytale was an inspired touch. I found this I really compelling read and I think that’s mainly down to the high degree of detail with both the world building and the characters. Recognisable imagery from cans of Tab (I really miss that drink) and neon clothing complete the package. The woods themselves were wonderfully created, I felt anxious every time Lauren or anyone went near them, the ominous Ghost tree rising up above the rest of the forest as an overbearing force watching over the town. There is a lot of gore as you would expect from a grizzly scene and nothing less than you would expect from Christina Henry, it’s shockingly striking and because of the attention to detail images are quickly seared in the mind.

My only issue with the book was how quickly the ending was wrapped up, as I was going along noting fewer and fewer pages left I found myself wondering if it was a first book as there would be no way it could all be concluded with the space left. Sadly it was and for me it felt like the payoff for all the great groundwork had been short changed. I mean its all there, just not as I would have expected given what had come before.

All in all though this is a fantastic read and probably my most favourite of Henry’s so far. It’s a perfect read for the lead up to Halloween and I’m very grateful to Titan books for sending me a copy for review.


Review of Dark Art (Whisper of the Gods #2) by Steve Feasey

Lann is lost. Haunted by ghosts and desperate for vengeance, he is struggling to maintain control of the Dreadblade. Its call is growing stronger and Lann’s resolve is at an all-time low.
Across a dark sea, Kelewulf is searching for the heart of a god. This powerful and terrible object is the final piece of the puzzle that will return darkness to the world forever. And with each day that passes, Kelewulf is closer to achieving his goal.

It feels like forever since I read Dark Blade but it’s such an easy world to fall back into and actually, a really great job was done with weaving in just enough of the backstory to bring back those key moments from book one. I loved the alternating chapters between locations and how the author wasn’t afraid to move the focus away from Lann or Kelewulf at times to help round out the story.  Whilst book one was really focused on Lann, I felt that we really got to learn more about Kelewulf this time and actually he stole the show for me! He had the benefit of a new area and new characters and his battles with both the Lich and being a stranger in a strange land made for utterly compelling reading. Whilst Kelewulf has the benefit of building a solid base in Hasz,  Lann and Astrid find themselves traversing several locations and even planes during their journey. Their valiant efforts in hunting down those who escaped through the rift feels like a relentless task for them, but they make an awesome team and I love how they bounced off each other in battle. They have quite the roller coaster going on so I’m not going to let slip much of their adventure, but it’s compelling! There are some quite visually graphic representations of their experiences at times which tips it at the slightly darker end of YA fantasy.

This is still a very much character driven series, and whilst I do miss my beloved world building, it’s fine because I knew this going into it from book one. I did get a little sprinkling here and there though! Specifically with Hasz and the Citadel, it reminded me a little of The Black Church from Nevernight, there’s a wonderful little magic system in play and some great teachers and set ups to really drive Kelewulf’s arc forward. There were a couple of occasions towards the end where I would have liked to have known more though because it felt a teeny bit rushed and I had to read back because I thought I had missed something. There is no word wasted though, it’s a fast, punchy and easy read that a thoroughly enjoyed and I’m very grateful to Bloomsbury YA for providing me with this opportunity to continue this fantastic story!